Jonah Engler Silberman: Who is Lama Yeshe?
You’ve probably heard of the Dalai Lama, but you may not have heard of another influential figure associated with Tibetan Buddhism: Lama Thubten Yeshe, according to Buddhism aficionado Jonah Engler Silberman. Let’s take a look at the life of Lama Yeshe and why he played such an important role in the Tibetan Buddhism practices recognized today for helping people to become the best versions of themselves.
Lama Yeshe entered the world in 1935. At the time, Nenung Pawo Rinpoche, a lama known for having psychic powers, told several nuns at their home that a boy had been born nearby and that he was the incarnated version of their guru and abbess who had died a few years prior. The nuns began to investigate the matter, and they soon stumbled across baby boy Lama Yeshe. They ended up naming him Thondrub Dorje and showered him with many offerings, according to Jonah Engler Silberman.
As Lama Yeshe grew older, he went to the nuns’ convent with them to take part in the many religious functions, such as ceremonies, held there. He spent most of his time there in the nuns’ shrine room. He eventually told his parents that he felt that life was filled with suffering, so he wanted his life to take a different path from that of his parents: He wanted to lead a life centered on religion. Lama Yeshe finally received the permission of his parents to join a monastic center college called Sera Je at the age of 6.
The Training Years
Lama Yeshe remained at Sera Je until he was 25 years old. During his many years there, he learned about Tibetan and Indiana educational traditions. Specifically, he came to know the complete sutra path leading to Buddhahood, through enlightenment-related teachings he received. In other words, he learned how to attain a fully purified and awakened mind. In fact, he completed the ordination process to become a novice monk at the ripe age of 8. His deepest desire was to one day introduce the peaceful advantages of spiritual practices to those individuals who had never been exposed to them.
The Later Years
In 1959, Lama Yeshe was encouraged by the Chinese to leave the Chinese region of Tibet so that he could experience the real world. He heeded their advice. Lama Yeshe escaped to Northeast India and ended up meeting with other refugees from Tibet there. At a settlement camp called Buxa Duar, Lama Yeshe resume his studies, focusing specifically on metaphysics and discipline. He finally attained complete monk’s ordination at age 28.
One of the monk’s most noteworthy gurus was Zopa Rinpoche, the disciple of a famous practitioner named Geshe Rabten, who was also a guru of Lama Yeshe’s. Zopa Rinpoche remained with Lama Yeshe until Yeshe passed away in 1984. He ended up receiving an honorary degree in the 1980s from Sera Je and continues to be honored for his unconventional teaching style as well as his great contribution to the spread of the knowledge of Buddhism.